Beat the block Southeast Review style

I like to do these little posts about beating writer’s block because writer’s block is bullshit. Right? Just write. But, it’s also a thing, and a thing I struggle with a lot, even though I supposedly love writing and have worked my ass off to do this whole writing professionally business, and it’s basically all I think about. That and puppies, and smoothies, and magic.

Here are some of my favorite ways to beat writer’s block, SER edition:

1. Visual art! The Surrealists did it, and before them the Romantics, and before them frickin’ everyone did it. Go to a museum, surf the web, make some art yourself, and check out The Southeast Review Vol 32.2 because we have two killer-great artists– Lita Cabellut and Dmitry Borshch. Both artists completely astound and inspire me. Cabellut is something of a personal hero– she’s a Romani (Gypsy) painter from Spain and her work haunts my dreams in a good way. And Borshch is one of the most striking and unusual illustrators I’ve come across in some time– his designs spring from Russian stories and some great place of blue ink creation. We’re proud to feature interviews with both artists.

Issue-32.2

2. Read other people’s work! One of the best ways to find out what’s new and exciting in the literary world is to read more literary journals. You can drink your fill of art for free on ezines and electronic journals, but don’t forget to show your print journals some love, too. When you subscribe or order an issue, it keeps the art and the industry alive.

3. Writing prompts! The Southeast Review does these Writing Regimen packets a few times a year, and it’s a fantastic writer’s block cure, full of prompts, craft tips, and inspirational tidbits to keep your mind spinning, inspiration flowing, and words coming. All the good gerunds. The next round starts OCTOBER 1ST! Yes!

The Southeast Review Writing Regimen is for poets, essayists, and fiction writers who want to produce a body of work by introducing structure to their writing life, and, at the same time, finding new and innovative ways to approach their craft.

Sign up for The Southeast Review Writing Regimen and you will get the following:

  • daily writing prompts, applicable for any genre, emailed directly to you for 30DAYS! Use these to write a poem a day for 30 days, to create 30 short-short stories, or to give flesh to stories, personal essays, novels, and memoirs
  • a daily reading-writing exercise, where we inspire you with a short passage from the books we’re reading and get you started writing something of your own
  • A Riff Word of the Day, a Podcast of the Day from an editor, writer, or poet, and a Quote of the Day from a famous writer on writing

  • Flashback Bonus Craft Talks, where, as a little something extra, we repeat an earlier regimen’s craft talks from more writing heavyweights

  • weekly messages from established poets and writers—including tips and warnings on both the craft and the business of writing

  • a FREE copy of a current or classic back issue of The Southeast Review, featuring interviews, poetry, nonfiction, and fiction that will knock your socks off!

  • a chance to have your work published on our site.  Read the winning entry from our most recent Writer’s Regimen contest in June, “Vaquera” by Kim Henderson

  • access to our online literary companion—www.southeastreview.org—for interviews with up-and-coming and established poets, fiction writers, and memoirists, podcasts of readings from the Warehouse Reading Series, including such writers as Ann Patchett, Jennifer Knox, Matthew Zapruder, Barry Hannah, . . . as well as essays on the reading life of writers, book picks, web picks, and much more . . .”

So that’s all pretty great, and all are SER inspired to celebrate the birth of Vol. 32.2. I couldn’t be more excited.

Keep writing, friends.

Posing with a book of Shelley many years ago at Hollins University, my alma mater

Posing with a book of Shelley many years ago at Hollins University, my alma mater

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Last chance to join me in France for yoga & writing! I’ll be at the Château.

Quail Bell Magazine was so sweet to make this announcement that I’m teaching writing workshops this summer in France on the Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, France (Aug 7-20, 2014. I’m so honored to be teaching alongside Cambridge Writers’ Workshop superstars Elissa Joi Lewis, Rita Banerjee, and Diana Norma Szokolyai (recently one of VIDA’s “20 Gypsy Women You Should Be Reading”). They are all so talented, smart, and divinely sweet. And I’m wildly excited that I’m teaching “Yearning & Character Motivation” and “Magic & Trauma– Writing from the Unconscious,” and there are a bunch more awesome writing workshops on the schedule including writing workshops, craft talks, art classes, adventures to Paris & Chantilly, and yoga twice a day. In France. A couple of spots have opened so apply ASAP or by July 15th.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I'm the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat.

Enjoying yoga with magnificent Elissa Joi Lewis. I’m the one, all in black, lounging beside the thousand year old moat. Image Source: Quail Bell Magazine

 

 

The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop

If you’re an artist or writer and you’re feeling a little tapped out, check out this Quail Bell Magazine essay/interview “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing: Retreat, Ritual, and a Chat with the Women of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop” about the benefits of practicing yoga alongside your writing practice and the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer Yoga & Writing Retreat at the Château de Verderonne, FranceAlthough the CWW has marked the retreat application deadline as May 15th, admissions are rolling until filled and there are still a few spaces. Apply A.S.A.P.

 

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Elissa doing yoga in front of the Château de Verderonne, Image source: Quail Bell Magazine

Some quotes from “The Symbiotic Magic of Yoga and Writing“–

Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Christopher Marlowe Cobb Thriller Series, argues that ritual is the key to creating art. In From Where You Dream: the process of writing fiction, he explains that you must prepare for writing by entering a trance and focusing on the breath in a quiet space, much like the centering meditation of a yoga class. Once you’re there and centered, you must stay present with sensation and allow yourself to create directly and organically from that “dream space.” Like in yoga, you set an intention to stay open to all experience and at the same time, remain unattached to ideas, hence the popular mantra, “I am not my mind.” Butler writes that the best art comes from this “moment to moment sensual experience,” and “non-art” is full of summarized or intellectualized reported experience. 

Those “moment to moment sensory experience[s]” are much more nuanced than you’d think—all the available senses are involved. In my Yoga Teacher Training at Kripalu, I learned that the body holds memories, a phenomenon addressed in the study of somatics, a branch of psychology that examines the mind-body connection. In certain poses, you may feel spontaneously happy, sad, angry, frightened, blissful—you may be flooded with memories, sensations, and epiphanies. You may weep or laugh without knowing why (or knowing all too well why). Stay with present if you can: breathe, relax, feel, watch, allow (or BRFWA). Your body is releasing trapped energy, memories, and emotions—parts of your past that you have been carrying unconsciously, perhaps as tension, shortness of breath, pain, or anxiety. What does the experience feel like, smell like, look like, sound like, and taste like? The information you need to have a cathartic experience is the same information you need to create one on the page. Butler argues that in order to make art, we have to dive into the unconscious mind, confront whatever pain dwells there, and use that intense awareness to write from the “white hot center.” This is just another way to access the unconscious.

 

The renovated stables

The renovated stables

Jessica: What are some of your favorite yoga poses, breathing exercises, and/or meditations for stimulating (or sustaining) creativity?

Elissa: To increase creativity and flow, hip-openers like Pigeon pose and Lizard pose (Uttan Pristhasana) are my favorite. When you release tension in your hips, you also release the emotions that come bubbling up. The hips and pelvis are related to the Svadisthana chakra and the water element which governs the area of creation and creativity. These postures help clear writer’s block by encouraging creative energy to flow without over-efforting.

Also, Nadi Shodana pranayama (also called alternate nostril breathing) is a wonderful breathing technique to begin or complete your practice and is appropriate for anyone. It stimulates a daydream-like state, where our senses draw in (called pratyahara) and we can disengage from the external world. It helps us develop the focus and concentration needed in meditation. I think any meditation that works for you is excellent. Meditation is the key to open the mind to inspired creative thought. It brings you back to yourself, to moments of truth, without mind chatter, self-criticism and self-consciousness.

 

I'm enjoying yoga with Elissa

I’m enjoying yoga with Elissa

Jessica: How does community support your yoga practice and/or artistic practice? 

Norma: The image of the solitary writer is deeply rooted in the romanticized myth of the lone, genius writer. In truth, most great writers were part of communities comprised of other writers, intellectuals, and artists that inspired each other. Many great literary movements and unforgettable manifestos came out of the collaboration of such communities of writers….In addition to encouragement, support, and critical feedback, I think one of the most powerful things a community can offer a writer is accountability. If you know that people are counting on you, then you are more likely to follow through. Whether your goals are short term or long term, a community can hold you to your word. 

Of course, the same principles apply to a community supporting one’s yoga practice.

For the rest of the essay/interview: http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/the-real/essay-the-symbiotic-magic-of-yoga-and-writing

Click here for more details

Applications rolling till filled

If you want to read more about the importance of cultivating a community, check out Rita and Norma’s interview with VIDA & HERKIND “Community as Catharsis: A Conversation with Rita Banerjee & Diana Norma Szokolyai”

Quail Bell Magazine print issue no. 5 is in! Order now for quails in your mails!

You can order this issue and even buy a subscription here. Also, Quail Bell Magazine will be at the Brooklyn Zine Fest on April 26 & 27 and you can pick out your quail personally. Either way, it’s a beautiful issue full of artwork, essays, articles, fiction, poetry, and more by fresh, talented artists and writers. My essay, “Blond Gypsy Angels: Romani Looks, Romani Blood, Romani Challenges,” about the Maria case and the “Gypsy child-thieves” hysteria that swept through Europe, is in there too.

I love ezines, especially artsy indie ezines, but I extra-love print magazines, so I get especially excited when Quail Bell releases print issues. The majority of Quail Bell’s content is online, and the print issues reflect the season’s highlights plus some extras. I hope y’all enjoy it!

They're here! Such perfect quails.

They’re here! Such perfect quails.

Quail news: new poem, staff writer, Twitter presence, and a call for book reviews!

1. I wrote this creepy poem just for you! “Window” just came out in Quail Bell Magazine.

2. Speaking of which, Quail Bell just came out with two anthologies packed with poems, fairy tales, short stories, artwork, comics, essays, and articles. If you’re interested in reviewing Airborne: an Anthology of the Real and/or The Nest: an Anthology of the Unreal, for any journal, magazine, ezine, etc. that you’re affiliated with, let me know and I’ll hit you up with the galleys.

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Take a look at the Quail Bell Magazine Mission Statement (and the magazine itself, of course) to get a sense of us.

3. I’m officially a Quail Bell Staff Writer. Look at my face! My Quail Bell face!

4. Quail Bell(es) have been tearing up Twitter. Check out the recap of what we’ve been up to here! And #RealGypsyWarrior got some love. 

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Image from https://twitter.com/JSReidy

 

I numbered them all because they’re that important!